Well, Stanford has done it.
They seemed like a good bet for the NCAA Tournament.
The “if the season ended today, they’d be in” team of the Pac-12.
Now, it seems, if the season ended today….who knows. If the Cardinal were hanging on by a thread before, they’re at the edge of a cliff now, close to falling off.
When I wrote this Pac-12 bubble story a couple weeks ago, Stanford had an RPI of 45. Now, they’ve lost four of five, including losses to Washington State (128 RPI) and Colorado (111) and have dropped to the No. 50 RPI and into a tie for fifth place with Oregon State.
They only have two good wins from an RPI perspective: Texas (32) and Wofford (46) which recently lost to Chattanooga (134) by 10 points, and a bad loss to DePaul (135) by 15 points. The rest of their schedule: California (91), Oregon State (84), Oregon (62), Arizona State (94) and Arizona (7). They might have to finish 4-1 with a win or two in the Pac-12 Tournament to lock themselves in.
UCLA (39) is in good shape, winning five of six with an easy schedule (ASU, Washington, Wazzu, USC and Arizona) to go. Oregon (62) would help itself with a win against Utah on Feb. 22 and Stanford on March 1, but can’t afford to lose games to Oregon State, Cal or Colorado.
The Beavers are officially out after losing to UCLA and USC (169) last week.
Arizona probably can’t be a one-seed anymore, and are fighting to stay as a two, while Utah is probably a three rght now, fighting to be a three.
With that, here’s this week’s Pac-12 round-up, with team and player power rankings at the bottom.
1. Ronde Hollis-Slipperson
You’ve seen the video of him slipping on his way to a wide-open dunk by now. It was funny mostly because he wasn’t hurt and the Wildcats won the game against Washington State by a million.
In reality, Hollis-Jefferson is playing his best basketball right now. His defense has always been great for Arizona, but he’s stepped up big time on offense lately. He won Pac-12 player of the week for the Washington road trip, and in the last five games he’s averaged 14.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 steals and shot 64.4 percent from the field. One negative: He’s shot 57.1 percent from the free throw line.
2. Norman POW-ell
Did you see this dunk?
This guy has fast become one of my favorite players in the Pac-12. He’s a high-flying 6-foot-4 guard, a solid on-ball defender and is a great example of what four years of development can do for a player. Just look at his scoring: 4.6 ppg as a freshman, 6.1 as a sophomore, 11.4 as a junior and 16.0 now.
He scored 23 points in a big win against Oregon when fellow guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton combined to shoot 2 of 15, and has scored 20 points in six of nine Pac-12 games. If UCLA closes the season out strong, which they should, Powell might just usurp the Pac-12 Player of the Year award from the grasp of Delon Wright and T.J. McConnell. He’s already passed Chasson Randle, in my eyes.
About that dunk, coach Steve Alford told reporters: “"That's Norman. He's 'SportsCenter.'"
3. Back to the Beaver dam
Oregon State was the Pac-12’s upstart team for most of the year, and for a minute there Wayne Tinkle felt like a lock for coach of the year. Some of that shine has worn off. Since starting 5-2 in the Pac-12, the Beavers have lost four of six, including bad losses to ASU and USC. Oh, and this.
All in all, considering their very low expectations coming into the year, the season can be looked at as a success regardless of what their record winds up being.
4. Blakes in the clutch
He’s flown under-the-radar, but Gerry Blakes, a junior college transfer, has been ASU’s unsung hero this season, especially recently.
Blakes almost single-handedly won the Sun Devils last two games, succeeding against Washington, failing against Wazzu.
Against the Huskies, he scored 18 points in the final 11 minutes; against Washington State, he scored ASU’s last 15 points in a 3-point loss. He averaged 23.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in those two games.
5. What happened to Chasson?
Stanford’s star guard Chasson Randle had been a prime candidate for player of the year for much of the season. Recently, he’s struggled, and not-so-coincidentally, so have the Cardinal.
In the four games scoring 33 points in the Washington State loss, Randle is averaging 13.5 points per game, 2.8 assists, 2.8 turnovers, shooting 26.9 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from three. Oh, and Stanford is 1-3 in those games.
1. Utah (20-4, 10-2 Pac-12)
2. Arizona (22-3, 10-2)
3. UCLA (16-10, 8-5)
4. Stanford (16-9, 7-6)
5. Oregon (18-8, 8-5)
6. Oregon State (16-9, 7-6)
7. California (16-10, 6-7)
8. Arizona State (13-12, 5-7)
9. Colorado (12-12, 5-7)
10. Washington State (11-14, 5-8)
11. Washington (14-11, 3-10)
12. USC (10-15, 2-11)
Player of the Year Rankings
1. Delon Wright, Utah
2. T.J. McConnell, Arizona
3. Norman Powell, UCLA
4. Chasson Randle, Stanford
5. Joseph Young, Oregon
6. Stanley Johnson, Arizona
7. Gary Payton II, Oregon State
8. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona
9. Kevon Looney, UCLA
10. Tyrone Wallace, California
Just missed: Askia Booker, Colorado; Brandon Taylor, Utah
Pac-12 schedule (all times MT)
UCLA at Arizona State, 7 p.m., ESPN2
Colorado at Oregon, 9 p.m., ESPNU
USC at Arizona, 7 p.m., Pac-12
Utah at Oregon State, 9 p.m., Pac-12
California at Stanford, 4:30 p.m., Pac-12
UCLA at Arizona, 7 p.m., ESPN
Colorado at Oregon State, 9 p.m., Pac-12
Utah at Oregon, 1 p.m., FS1
Washington at Washington State, 6:30 p.m., ESPNU
USC at Arizona State, 6:30 p.m., Pac-12